Kutlwano Tshatiwa and Ethan de Wet impress at Tunisia science and engineering festival

Two dynamic South African young scientists have bowled over judges at the International Festival of Engineering Science and Technology in Tunisia (I-FEST2), both bagging awards for their impressive research. The young scientists were selected at the Eskom Expo International Science Fair in 2021 to represent South Africa.

The festival was held in Monastir, Tunisia from 24 to 30 June 2022 and was organised by the Tunisian Association for the future of Science and Technology. The programme aimed to be unique, educational and fun, and included various trips and excursions to discover the rich Tunisian culture.

Kutlwano Tshatiwa, a 17-year-old Matric learner at Gabonewe High School in the North West province’s Bojanala region had one of the top 10 projects at the festival, and was awarded a gold medal for his vast knowledge and experience in machine learning, which is mostly self-taught. The young scientist used millions of images to test two methods of model training, i.e. a custom model and a knowledge distillation model. He found that knowledge distillation techniques outperformed the custom model in terms of accuracy.

“Winning a gold medal at I-FEST2 was really great for me personally. It was an indication that my research project is not only amongst the best at home, but amongst the best on an international stage. The competition was tough, with other countries presenting really smart and complex research. I also felt humbled by the experience, and was proud to represent my country,” said Tshatiwa.

Judges at the festival awarded a silver medal to Ethan de Wet, an 18-year-old Matric learner at Curro Durbanville in the Western Cape’s Stellenbosch region, for his in-depth research on the physics of sound. De Wet’s project was selected for international participation because the innovation is an example of how an industry dependent on natural resources can become eco-friendly. Using 3D printing technology with biodegradable Polylactic acid (PLA), he designed and constructed speaker enclosures that could replace standard wooden ones.

De Wet conducted in-depth research on the physics of sound such as sound pressure level, distortion, and the audio spectrum. This, together with his knowledge of sound engineering, helped him design and 3D print an affordable and efficient speaker enclosure. The significance of his study is that the speaker enclosure is eco-friendly, cost effective, and gives the consumers greater flexibility to 3D print such enclosures themselves, using his designs.

“It is wonderful to have won an award. All achievements span from hard work and dedication. So with many hours of just that, it is great to reap the benefits. This achievement is also wonderful for the representation of the bright minds within our country, and can only allow for growth within the near future,” said De Wet.

Eskom Development Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Cecil Ramonotsi, said: “As the proud funder of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, Eskom would like to congratulate Kutlwano and Ethan for their exceptional achievement in the International Festival of Engineering Science and Technology in Tunisia, proving that Eskom Expo’s platform in moulding aspiring scientists continues to yield international award-winning results.”

Nthato Minyuku, Eskom Group Executive: Government and Regulatory Affairs, said: “It is impressive how these young stars developed such award-winning research projects while still at school, giving assurance that our future is in good hands. They are a shining example, and I am confident that they will share their brilliant ideas with their peers and encourage them to follow their lead and to also take advantage of the great opportunities provided by the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists.”

Registration to take part in the 2022 Eskom Expo remains open. Learners in grades 4 to 12, along with learners from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges that are in NC2 to NC4, can register and upload their own research projects by clicking here. To access resources and easy-to-use templates, click here.

For the 2022 Eskom Expo regional dates, venues and project submission deadlines, click here.

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